My very first ‘guests’ are Paul and Louise who moved here from the UK last summer.
Hi Paul and Louise, thank you so much for inviting me over here today and I’m so excited that you are going to kick off this series for me. So can you tell us how you came to live in France and why?
There are a million reasons why! We’ve visited South Western France several times over the past five years and chose to take the plunge whilst we’re still young enough to do it. We were initially drawn to the space everywhere, the lower cost of houses (compared to the UK) and the less stressful French way of life.
And of course the question everyone always wants to know, did you speak French before you came here?
No! But we’re willing to learn. It worried Louise more than Paul. However, we’ve found if you’re willing to make an effort then people will help. With a lot of sign language, hand gestures and trial and error we get by. One of the first things we did was to enrol in local French lessons.
What do you love most about your daily life here?
A thousand things! But probably most of all that we have time to do things. In the UK we worked full time and anything social or leisure related was crammed into an already overloaded weekend. Now we are enjoying getting used to a completely different culture. Getting used to a two hour shift at lunch time when everything closes. It becomes normal, this slower more relaxed way of life. Oh and of course there’s the fresh bread from the boulangerie, that’s a big bonus!
You decided to create a chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfast) with your two guest bedrooms, what style were you aiming for and what atmosphere were you hoping to create in general?
We wanted to keep everything as traditionally French as possible. We didn’t want anything too modern. We really wanted everything to be in keeping with the age of the house but at the same time with a relaxing vibe.
Why did you choose this area of France (Charente Maritime) and what do you love most about it?
We Only ever looked in South West France, but after some holidays further to the east and south we quickly came to realise that the Charente Maritime was where we wanted to be. We are only 45 mins from beach and the closest airport at La Rochelle. We wanted to live in a village if possible as we didn’t want to be isolated. We’re in a small village called Crazannes and we have three châteaux open to visitors close by! Saintes which is a good hub and has a lively atmosphere is only fifteen minutes away and there are good road links to the north and south. Add to this the affable local community and you can see why we’re very happy!
What do you like best about life in a French village?
Being able to walk around with the dog and interact with the people you meet, everyone stops to say ‘Bonjour’ and exchange a few words all of which helps with our French and everyone is so friendly.
Have the locals welcomed you and do you feel a part of the community?
Definitely 100% Yes. We go to French lessons in the village hall. The French take the English and teach them French and the English take the French and teach them English, it works well! We’ve also joined in the local Quiz night and really enjoyed the Christmas evening meal.
I have to ask this, is there anything you dislike or anything you miss from life in the UK?
What we dislike has to be dog poo on the pavement, we have to look where we’re going! But do we miss anything? No, just family but mostly this is because of Covid because it has made things different. We cannot go back and visit and our children and family cannot come and visit us at the moment. Trips have been cancelled and that’s when it gets hard. But honestly there is nothing else.
What about the cost of living here compared to back in the UK?
We’ve found grocery bills tend to be higher here, and utility bills are much the same. Some things are more, some are less, it’s really a case of you win on some and lose on others, so it probably in the end works out much the same.
You have a beautiful garden and I know you have planted quite a few vegetables, and I know there is a proper potager planned for the autumn, along with a greenhouse. Do you want to be quite self sufficient?
Yes as much as possible, this was always the plan. But now even more so with the pandemic. And the great growing climate here makes it even more possible.
And finally, what words of advice would you give for anyone else thinking of moving here?
Don’t think too big. It is easy to be sucked into the cheaper prices and think wow we could afford this and then find you’ve bought something with 4 hectares that you have no way of managing. Or your heart has ruled your head and you’ve bought a run down wreck with endless rooms. We looked at places like that and if we’d taken that route we’d still be renovating the first room! Also make lots of wishlists and try and stick to them. You will have to make compromises but it’s the same as anywhere in the end, what counts is location location location, you can change a house inside but you can’t pick it up and move it.
Thank you so much Paul and Louise for sharing some of your experiences with us. I really hope you have enjoyed this and if you’d like to find out more about their Chambres d’hôtes you can contact them by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow them on Instagram @lacachette17
And if you’re thinking of making the move a reality and feel a little lost and need some help that is what we are here for. You can find more details on our website www.ourfrenchlifestyle.com or you can email us directly at email@example.com